The Commission seeks feedback to reform the “Vertical Block Exemption Regulation”

The “Vertical Block Exemption Regulation” (“VBER”, Reg. n. 330/2010) and the accompanying Guidelines on Vertical Restraints (“Guidelines”) are now almost nine years old and the European Commission has recently launched an evaluation roadmap to assess whether these documents can still be considered fit or need to be updated in light of the developments occurred over the last years, notably the increased importance of online sales and the emergence of new market players such as online platforms.

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Do data generated by connected cars raise antitrust risks?

In these days the European Commission is particularly active in understanding the possible antitrust impact of data-related conducts. In particular, from a recent policy document published by the Commission and from statements released by DG Comp´s official, it emerges that data generated by automated and connected cars might be considered an “essential facility” from a competition law perspective, at least in the early stage of the industry development, with the consequence that access to these data could not be refused to third parties. Consequently, manufacturers of automated and connected cars which refuse to license these data under fair terms to providers of cars-related services (i.e.: insurers, repairers, leasing companies) might be in breach of article 102 TFEU.

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Reforming EU copyright law through competition enforcement? Waiting for the Commission’s decision in the “Pay-tv” case

These are complicated days for the entertainment industry. While one investigation regarding sports media rights has just been launched by the European Commission, another is coming to an end. I am talking about the so-called “Pay-tv” case, by means of which the Commission is subtly attempting to reform copyright law through competition enforcement. Continue reading “Reforming EU copyright law through competition enforcement? Waiting for the Commission’s decision in the “Pay-tv” case”

Is this a monopoly? Sailing through IP and competition law

Today we talk about IP, antitrust and sailing. Which is a great occasion to escape the files on your desk and envision yourself enjoying warm winds on emerald water.

Sailing, besides being a wonderful way to stay in touch with nature, is an Olympic discipline sailed on different types of boats: at the moment, the official “Olympic Classes” are Laser, Laser Radial, 49er, 49erFX, RS:X, Nacra 17, 470 and Finn. Olympic Classes are selected by World Sailing, the governing body of this sport, and they are subject (in theory) to periodic review. As a consequence, over the years even glorious boats like Star – which has been part of the Olympic program since its initial editions – have been replaced by fancier and foiling ones.

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The European Commission provides guidance on SEP licensing but leaves open issues

On November 29, the European Commission published its long-awaited “Communication setting out the EU approach to standard-essential patents” (SEPs). The stakeholders were expecting from the Commission in-depth guidance on the definition of fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms in the context of SEP licensing. However, the Commission did not address all the open issues, leaving room for continued legal uncertainty on the exact meaning of FRAND. Continue reading “The European Commission provides guidance on SEP licensing but leaves open issues”

SEP licensing and competition law: DOJ and European Commission bless a new “patent-friendly” approach

Recently, the debate on the applicability of competition law to the licensing of standard-essential patents (SEPs) has come to a turning point. Indeed, both the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the European Commission are making an attempt to provide a final answer to the following questions:

1) should the conduct of SEP-holders be subject to the application of competition law?

2) should standard-setting organisations (SSO) provide guidance on the meaning of “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms (FRAND), or would that guidance amount to a price-fixing cartel?

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BREAKING: the CJEU sets new criteria to assess excessive pricing under competition law

Yesterday the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on one of the hottest antitrust issues of 2017: excessive pricing.

It was Commissioner Vestager in late 2016 who set the antitrust radar of the European Commission on these conducts, which were considered a bit like unicorns until last year: traces of them were visible only on old handbooks. Following the Commissioner’s speech, the European Commission launched an investigation against Aspen Pharma for alleged excessive pricing in May 2017 (everywhere but in Italy, where Aspen had already been fined by the Italian Competition Authority, see here).

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Pills of competition law: Aspen, Uber and e-commerce

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These are busy days for EU competition law.

Today, the European Commission has come back to the old good pharmaceutical market and opened an investigation against Aspen for having charged excessive prices on its “off-patent” drugs (the same case has already been decided in Italy by the Italian Competition Authority in 2016, see here). This may be seen as a follow up to Margrethe Vestager’s recent speeches against excessive prices (here and here). However, even more recently, Advocate General Wahl delivered an opinion where he stated that excessive pricing may occur only in regulated markets with high barriers to entry, since in a free and competitive market high prices would attract new entrants and would not give rise to competitive issues (§ 48, see here for further remarks). Therefore, a question arises: where are the barriers to entry in the Aspen case, insofar as Aspen does not own any patent (already expired for years) and third parties are free to access the market? Continue reading “Pills of competition law: Aspen, Uber and e-commerce”